Advantage tells retailers, ‘Leave the heavy lifting to us’

Michael Browne

With massive steel shelves stacked floor-to-ceiling with tools, lumber and paint, the traditional home-center retail store represents the ultimate challenge to build and remodel — and requires a specialized team of heavy lifters qualified to do the job.

Advantage Solutions’ trade services team — a special forces unit of sorts trained to handle projects ranging from the installation of fixtures, large internal and external signs, furniture, displays and equipment to millwork and carpentry — transforms empty spaces into thriving marketplaces.

And now, they’re no longer just in home-center stores. In recent months, the team has taken its talents to grocers, mass merchants and all other retail channels Advantage serves, offering a capability that many retailers didn’t even know existed within the company. (Watch the video below to learn more about Advantage’s trade services capabilities.)

“When we started really developing this and shared it with the marketplace, the most common reaction was shock, says Michael Taylor, COO of retailer services for Advantage. “Customers said: ‘We didn’t know you had that service. How did we not know you did this?’”

Taylor and his team are intent on changing that perception.

Advantage Solutions is already well-known for its expertise in grocery retail execution, merchandising resets and getting the right products in the right place on shelves. But trade services, also known as installation and finishing, and powered by the company’s SAS Retail Services organization, is a growing opportunity.

Where is the value?

Taylor says installation and assembly is often a challenge within the retail marketplace, as retailers must complete a build-out before Advantage’s work in retail execution begins.

“Doing that assembly work ourselves allows us to speed up the process and get stores open — and products on the shelf — faster.”

That, of course, translates to a faster return on investment for retailers. In short: Speed matters.

Advantage’s retailer services teams typically go into stores and perform merchandising resets and practical store visits, while the trade services team takes on larger, more complex project work — essentially doing what Jeff Thorpe, senior vice president of trade services, calls the “heavy lifting.”

“We build and move steel fixtures, set up counters, do assembly work. We have experienced operators armed with heavy equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks. We even have carpenters on our team who can build anything with wood,” Thorpe says.

“We walk into a location, and there’s four walls and nothing in the building. Ten weeks later, we hand it back to the retailer and say, you’re ready for your grand opening,” he says. “That’s the exciting part of this.”

Having successfully moved into the grocery and mass-merchandise segments, Advantage and SAS are now taking on projects ranging from setting up garden centers, installing bike racks and building racks in the apparel areas of stores.

“These services fill a cross-functional need available in every outlet, and we’re here to serve our customers and make sure that we deliver what they’re looking for,” Thorpe says.

Credibility counts

For Taylor, the success of the trade services business comes down to one thing: Advantage’s credibility in the retail marketplace.

“This is new to our customers,” he explains. “We started with small projects, from installing signs in a store, to completing full-scale construction projects. The more we do and the faster we deliver creates more and more opportunities.”

So far, Advantage has brought its trade services expertise to large and regional grocers, mass-merchant retailers and small-format stores — all while continuing to serve the home-center retail channel where trade services began. The division is leading the way for Advantage opening its portfolio far beyond its traditional food/drug/mass customers.

For retailers of all types looking to build or remodel, Thorpe has this advice: “Give us a call. Give us a chance to present our capabilities. We’d love to come out and walk stores with you. That’s where our passion is, to get in the stores, see what you need and come up with a solution to fix anything that you need assistance with.

“We’re here to help you run your business more smoothly, more efficiently and allow you to take care of the customers who spend money in your stores better.”